Newly elected Mayor Jeff Palmore, who ran on a “Pacific Is Due for a Change,” theme, says the changes he will push for may be more welcome than anyone expects.
Palmore successfully unseated five-term mayor Herb Adams in the April 8 municipal election.
Although he ran for office following a long dispute with the city, Palmore says he does not enter the office in anger or with any thoughts of vengeance.
“I ran for mayor not to get even,” he said, “but to try to make things better.”
The changes that he will tackle immediately fall into two categories — city spending and the image of the city with residents and businesses.
“We need to spend our money to better our advantage and we need to be a more friendly city,” Palmore said.
Since he enters office in the midst of budget preparation, the new mayor said his first focus will be on the budget that will go into effect July 1, 2015.
He will not participate in budget talks until he is installed in office April 15, but he has reached out to City Administrator Harold Selby and City Clerk Kim Barfield saying he will need their help to understand the process and the numbers.
“They are the experts,” Palmore said. “They’ve been doing this year after year. I’m new at this.”
Still, he brings substantial education and experience to the task of establishing a budget, having worked for years in the field of aerospace engineering and naval munitions installations. Every project he oversaw required a budget.
“I’m analytical,” he said. “I will analyze inputs, not just immediate prior years, but several years back. I’ll look at increases and decreases in spending and ask why.”
Palmore said he might even look at other budgets on some line items that appear to be excessive in order to compare Pacific’s spending with what other cities spend on similar line items.
“I would need to know why are we spending more,” he said. “What is unique about us?”
One thing he would stress is that as mayor he is not going to make any mistakes because he is not going to work alone. No decisions will be his alone. He said he will work with city staff, department heads and other elected officials.
“We’re going to work together. I’m not going to make mistakes,” he said. “My emphasis is let’s move forward.”
As a prominent questioner of (correctly or incorrectly perceived) misuse of authority, Palmore said he certainly wants to correct ills from the past if it is within his power to do so.
“I did my homework,” he said. “Am I moving forward? You can count on it, but that doesn’t mean not knowing where you’ve been. I don’t want to cause hard feelings. I want to fix what’s broken where we can do it better, but I can’t do anything alone.”
The new mayor said he believes that changes can be made to get the city budget expenditures under control and change how the city is spending money.
There is a second, larger issue, he believes that affects the future of the city.
“We’ve got to become — and become known as — a friendly city,” he said.
On public discontent items, such as trucks driving on Candlewick, the city should do its job and post big signs.
“On our main thoroughfare, we have constant complaints about trucks turning in driveways,” he said. “When a 60-ton truck turns on a dime, it digs into the asphalt and tears it up.”
As a business owner, Palmore said he empathizes with the business owners who are burdened with the cost of having to repair their driveways.
“I blame the city of Pacific,” he said. “Why don’t we have giant signs that say Pilot truck stop left lane only? Why don’t we paint that on the road?”
Stressing that the problems are not caused by willful truck drivers, but by the lack of information, he would call for a program to help the lost semi.
“We can be friendly when we pull a truck over and say, ‘How can we help you?” he said “Instead of giving them a ticket, let’s give them a map to find their way to where they need to go.
“Let’s not give them a ticket until we get our ducks in a row,” he said. “It’s on us.”
Being a friendly town begins with every city employee, he said, from the time residents or visitors come into city hall.
“There is no one there to greet you,” he said. “It looks like the reception area in prison. We have bulletproof glass windows with no one manning them.
“We have to be more cordial when someone comes into city hall and act like we’re meeting with friends, family or our boss.”
Run the City
Like a Business
Palmore compares the structure of the city with a corporation.
“We are incorporated with corporate city limits,” he said. “We have a CEO and board of directors similar to a giant corporation with a multimillion dollar budget.
“We don’t produce anything. Our only function is to provide services for our owners, the citizens – services such as streets, water, sewer and police protection. That’s our total reason for being. If all we have to deal with is stockholders why not be friendly?
“We cannot continue to fight people when they come to city hall with complaints. We should listen and verify the complaint if it is justified and act on the complaint.
“That doesn’t mean agreeing with everyone who complains,” he said. “Just because I’m listening doesn’t mean I’m going to do what you want me to do.”
He also said the city needs a complaint and resolution process.
“In the beginning, I will be ombudsman for citizens and businesses,” he said. “If they have a complaint, they can come and see me,” he said. “After I understand the complaint, I will pass it off to the right person to look at it and fix it if possible and report back to me.
“I’ll take responsibility until we have an ombudsman in place,” he said.
Some frequent complaints, such as not cutting the city’s grass often enough can be solved with his first call for change, spending the city’s money wisely.
City workers should have appropriate equipment to do the job, he said.
“They should have the best equipment that will last and will do the needed function,” he said.
Palmore said his first obligation as mayor is to the residents.
“From the first person a resident meets in city hall to the last person they see when they leave, they should be treated in a friendly manner,” he said.
“Everybody needs to adopt that stance,” he added. “I am a supporter of everyone, from the employees and citizens to the individual who might want to come here to open a business. I want them all to feel they’ve been treated well by the city.”